Column: Taking steps to avoid fallsThere may be no way to avoid the fall season, but we all need to take action to avoid falling.
By: Ann Busche, For the Budgeteer News
There may be no way to avoid the fall season, but we all need to take action to avoid falling.
Sept. 22 was not only the first day of fall, but it was also Falls Prevention Awareness Day and Minnesota joined 46 other states to help raise awareness of the dangers of falling and to promote ways to prevent falls.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota has the fifth-highest fall death rate in the United States at 14 people per 100,000 population; this is nearly twice as high as the U.S. average and is continuing to rise. If you look at only adults over 65, this rate goes up to 95 people per 100,000.
Certainly not all falls result in death (thank goodness), but they can result in fractures, traumatic brain injuries, emergency visits and hospital admissions. More than 90 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.
In 2010, older Minnesotans had falls which resulted in 690 deaths and estimated medical costs of $275 million.
And heading into winter does not mean falls will increase as the snow falls: the data say there is no apparent seasonal pattern.
There’s a great tool to help assess your risk of falling at the website www.mnfallsprevention.org. As I’m heading towards my mid-50s, I thought I’d take the assessment and see how I scored on the risk for falling.
The first question asked if I have slipped, tripped or fallen in the past six months. This is important because if I have fallen recently, I am two- to three times more likely to fall again.
Do my concerns for falling limit my movements or physical activity? Being less active can actually increase the risk of falls.
Do my feet feel occasionally swell, hurt when walking, or have I lost any feeling due to diabetes or other medical condition? As you can imagine, loss of sensation or painful feet could impact my ability to walk up and down stairs or on uneven surfaces.
Do I take more than four medications a day or have a prescription for antidepressants? Taking multiple medications or ones that have side effects can increase my risk for falling.
Do I have difficulty reading, judging distances or seeing at night? Good vision is important to navigating hallways and stairways and these should be well lit.
Do I ever feel dizzy or lightheaded when getting out of bed or standing up? It’s important to take your time to allow your body to adjust.
Do I favor one side of my body, feel a loss of balance or need to hold onto furniture or walls to steady myself? Making adaptations to my home, such as handrails or grab bars, would be recommended if the answer to this question were yes.
Do I feel safe in my home or do I worry about being far away from a phone? Adding extra lighting or slip-resistant surfaces can increase my confidence and a medical alert system may give peace of mind.
Do I find it difficult to get in and out of a car or stepping in or out of the bathtub? Transitioning in and out of things are when falls can happen, so being careful, asking for help, or installing aids should be considered.
Am I walking or exercising less and generally being less active? Even a short period of inactivity can result in loss of physical strength and balance.
After answering these ten questions, I’m happy to report that I’m not at high risk for falls at this stage of my life, but any changes to my health will require me to reassess.
Hope you have a very healthy fall season that is free of falls!
Ann Busche is the director of Public Health and Human Services for St. Louis County. Contact her at 726-2096 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org